Plans for a downtown dog park continue to elicit fervent debate, but the Margaret T. Hance Park Steering Committee voted to approve a temporary dog park at a meeting held March 6 at Burton Barr Central Library.
The motion was approved 8-4-1 in favor of a temporary dog park near Third and Fifth avenues at Margaret T. Hance Park. Committee members Mike Whiting, Joan Kelchner, Linda Holman-Bentley and Kris Floor were opposed, and Tim Sprague abstained.
Committee member Louise Roman initiated the discussion by referencing the now-disbanded Ad Hoc Downtown Dog Park Citizen’s Committee, which was formed to recommend possible locations.
The meeting’s discussion focused on two recommendations: the temporary dog park and the request for qualification.
The first motion that passed tasked the committee with placing a dog park at Hance Park. The RFQ is a process to request hiring a design firm to create the dog park’s master plan.
Discussion of the RFQ prompted a preliminary debate over where the park should be located and who should decide — the committee or its potential designers.
The committee ultimately decided that a temporary park would address the community’s desire for a park and give the design team an opportunity to move the location if there proved to be a better one.
“There wouldn’t be as much infrastructure in terms of investment since the site of it might move,” Roman said.
This raised controversy over where the temporary dog park should be in Hance Park.
Roman said the area near Third and Fifth avenues, west of the Japanese Friendship Garden and north of Moreland Street were the primary locations examined.
Roman suggested that the committee pass a motion to create a temporary dog park near Third and Fifth avenues.
“It’s an extension of the existing park,” she said.
Joan Kelchner, a fellow committee member, disagreed.
“First of all, it is the way of bureaucracy that once you establish something as temporary, it tends to grow roots,” she said.
Kelchner argued that the location would present several problems, including the difficulty to move the park to a permanent location and inaccessibility to residents.
Kelchner also mentioned that the Third and Fifth avenue area is not handicap-accessible. Instead, she suggested First Street as the best option.
There will be a few more meetings to fine-tune the project, but the ultimate test will be the vote of the City Council, according to Roman.
“Our goal is for the RFQ to be drafted and issued sometime in the fall,” Roman said.
Roman estimated it could be two years until downtown would see the temporary dog park. The park needs to meet certain requirements of the city of Phoenix, such as handicap accessibility and proper amount of square footage.
Sean Sweat, a downtown community advocate, has been a proponent of the First Street location.
The idea of a dog park for downtown residents was initiated in August 2010. Since then, it has incited numerous disputes and community action, including the creation of the Ad Hoc Dog Park Committee by former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.
Sweat said there were flaws from the beginning. The Ad Hoc Dog Park Committee was an act of political railroading by Mayor Gordon, he said, and the original vote for the dog park in downtown was 60 percent in favor of the McKinley lot.
“He has stacked the deck,” he said.
Sweat said the Third and Fifth location would eliminate the goal of walkability because it is too far of a distance from the most-populated area of downtown.
“To make downtown work, we have to create an environment where people don’t have to have cars,” Sweat said. “It is moving us further from what should be the goal downtown.”
Roman opposed the First Street location and said it was not within the jurisdiction of Hance Park.
The First Street location would also require an annexation of the road. The committee felt that this could jeopardize the dog park being passed by the City Council, Roman said.
“We have very strong opposition and very strong support,” said Karen Williams, deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department. “The demand for a downtown dog park is greater than ever before.”
It’s a matter of city staff and management getting on board, but the committee wants to make it a signature park, Williams said.
“This isn’t the end; this is just the beginning,” she said.
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Josselyn Berry contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story replaces an article published March 7 called “Location suggestion for temporary dog park voted down by Hance Park committee” that contained a number of errors of fact. The retraction can be found here.